COMPUTERS, ICE, WINTER, WHATEVER

Yesterday Garry’s computer up and died. It apparently didn’t die of not having a battery because (are you ready?) — it doesn’t have a battery. It’s got some other weird thing in it. On the positive side, my previously hot computer is still really hot. Aside from having a rather full hard drive left, it is a computer worth fixing. Forever. That is the point of buying a really good computer. If you need to fix it, you can. Meanwhile, it’ll do fine on Windows 7 for at least the next few years.

Hands in motion

Hands in motion

I was doing okay, all thing considered … until my Kindle died. It was one thing over the line. I could cope without my second computer. I wasn’t happy, but I was okay. Garry needed a computer? I had one.

But when the Kindle stopped working, I totally, utterly, lost it. Not that too. It turned out for reasons someone knows (but I don’t), my Kindle was no longer listed on Amazon. None of my audiobooks were listed. There are other Kindles there too, but for some reason, this “main” one seems to be the only one that really counts.

Three hours later, having given up on every possible other thing, we had to de-register, then re-register the Kindle. Then wait while 1,500 audio and regular books … maybe more like 2000 … loaded. That’s a lot of books. A lot of audiobooks. I didn’t even bother to deal with the email. Too much like work.

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Meanwhile, it tuns out, our guy can fix Garry’s computer. For the $100, it’s cheaper than anything I could buy. Whatever that thing which isn’t a battery is, it’s being replaced. I will use it and let Garry use “the much better one.” I need one on which I can write. A keyboard and a screen. This will be fine … and amusingly, it will be my computer again because it was my computer, then it wasn’t. Now, mine. Again. They come, they go.

I did totally lose it last night. To lose Garry’s computer and then the Kindle in one single day was one thing over the line for me. It’s weird. All kinds of other stuff can happen to me, but losing a computer? That’s where the buck stops. Take away everything, but leave me the WiFi, router, modem … and a computer.

Meanwhile, my granddaughter came over, stayed the night. Leaving her car at the bottom of the driveway. Who leaves their car at the bottom of a long, sloping driveway in the winter? Really? She got it out eventually. We are getting rain for a few hours and Garry’s going to “hit the grocery” while he can. By nightfall, it will be freezing. Everything will turn to ice. Even the computer guy knew not to put his car at the bottom of the driveway. Sheesh.

So, everything will work out. One way or the other. As long as nothing else breaks down.

THE AGENTS IN THE DELL – A THURSDAY RANT

I wasn’t going to bother to write this because you’ve heard it before. And you’ll hear it again. The same old sad story. Dell makes some amazing computers — yet they have what must be the worst customer service on the planet. I do not see how it could be worse. It is so bad on so many different levels, it’s hard to know where to start. But then, I realized I might as well write it. Writing it could make me feel better. Eventually, I will also find it funny. I’m nearly ready to begin laughing. One more cuppa coffee and I’m there. Laughing.

This problem — not a huge problem, mind you — was whoever put my machine together forgot to install the Adobe software I bought with the computer. Or leave a link — or give me an unlock key to download it myself. Knowing Dell as I do, I considered just forgetting it. Let them keep the money and move on. But it’s $80. A bit too much to let slide.

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The thing about Dell Customer Disservice, other than its general suckiness, is that they never connect you to the right department. They repeatedly ask for the same information, but whoever you talk to next won’t have the information and you’ll have to provide it again. If you ask for the number to which they are supposedly transferring you because you fear they will disconnect you, you can be sure the phone number is either no longer in service, or is completely wrong. The ones they gave me were either: (1) disconnected, (2) A cruise scam organization (you know, free cruise if you give us all your personal information?), and (3) Direct-TV. What I wanted? Sales Support for Alienware.

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Any agent to whom you talk will never read what (if anything) a previous agent wrote — so you are always back on square one. No one ever calls you back or can provide you with a number to get you to the same person again.

They put you on hold and forget about you. Or disconnect you. They transform minor problems that could be dealt with by any normal company in a couple of minutes, into a week-long crises.

The first two agents I spoke to insisted I really had the software and was too inexperienced with computers to find it. Both agents went poking around INSIDE my computer (remotely). Each independently ascertained that the software isn’t there, nor is there any download link for me to acquire it. So, finally, after I got a bit strident about it, they connected me with a supervisor (this identical scenario played out twice). Both of whom informed me that they would not be able to deliver it. The first said it would be another five days. What? A download?

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I was in “patience is my middle name” mode, so I waited. Five days later with no further contact from Dell, I called again. The first agent told me I would have to wait ten days more and disconnected me. I hit redial. When finally I got an agent, I shouted: “I WANT MY MONEY BACK.” I felt I needed to get his attention before he disconnected me again.

The agent (aka idiot) explained he could escalate “my issue” and maybe (only maybe) I would get my money back. He would “send a request” up to whoever were slightly more in charge than he was, but he could not guarantee they would comply. Because, he said, I probably already have the software and simply can’t find it.

I started to say something, but choked on my own words. Several deep, cleansing breaths later, I pointed out Dell had failed to deliver something for which I had paid. They do not get to NOT give me the product OR return my money. That’s theft. But my idiot said those were the “rules” and I said “we have other rules in this country and I want to talk to a supervisor. NOW.” My idiot assured me a supervisor would say exactly the same idiotic thing. I said that, were this to prove true, then I would keep going up the ladder to the damned president of the company if I had to, so put the supervisor ON the phone NOW.” I think I may have been yelling by then.

Got the supervisor. After he too explained that the software was ON the machine and I explained he should read the notes on this case number (yes, I had a case number) and he would see that no, I don’t have it and no, I’m apparently not going to get it, and frankly, I’m sorry I ever ordered it, and now give me my money back before I call the Attorney General and report the company (I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first) for Felony Stupidity and Customer Malfeasance.

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Eventually he said he couldn’t give me the $82.95 Dell owed me, but would $100 be okay? I said yeah, fine. He was still talking when I hung up. I’d been on the phone for three hours and the dogs needed feeding, Garry wanted help unloading the groceries and my ear was getting sore.

Yesterday, I was issued a refund for $82.95. Can I sue for emotional distress?

I still don’t understand why there is any problem. It’s a download. I could download the software on the spot from Adobe. I’d only bought it from Dell because it was much cheaper.

This is supposed to be (wait for it, wait for it) PREMIUM CUSTOMER SERVICE. I hesitate to imagine the standard shit they are dishing out these days to regular, non-premium customers.

I buy Dell computers in spite of Dell. The computers are great, but oh-lord-give-me-strength to deal with their “customer disservice.” This morning, they sent me a “customer satisfaction” survey. I didn’t bother to fill it out.

HOW DO THEY DO IT SO FAST?

It’s configuration central here and has been for a couple of days, though I hope to actual finish today and be able to move on to those other things awaiting my attention. I can hear the little voices of my undone tasks yapping in my ear. It’s like the whine of mosquitoes. I slap at them, but they keep coming back.

It’s not only the computer that is sucking up my time. It’s this stupid, horrible election. So much of my attention has been taken away from the stuff I really should be doing, I’m not getting stuff done, not like I need to. I can’t WAIT for this election to be done and over. I want my brain back.

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Meanwhile, I got my computer. I actually got it a week ago and it was not supposed to show up until the second week in November. Maybe they ought to have waited and sent everything at the same time, but as it is, it didn’t come with the software I ordered — or the peripherals I need. I ordered the computer and software from Dell. Yes, I know. The worst customer service on the planet … but some of the best computers. It’s like having your sister marry a man you really loathe, but they are a package deal.

One of the big changes in this new generation of computers is they mostly don’t come with DVD reader/writers, so you need an external if you are going to install software from physical media. I ordered the external DVD player/writer from Amazon. It’s the same one Dell sells, but $25 less with free shipping and 2-day turnaround. Also picked up a nice zippy 1 TB external drive and a cool mouse that scrolls side-to-side as well as up-and-down. Amazing how prices have dropped on some of this stuff.

Yesterday, the peripherals arrived, so today, I hunkered down and decided to make this computer function.

I installed Photoshop and Bridge. I finished moving files from backup hard drives to the new computer (which has two hard drives, a 1 TB 7200 rpm mechanical drive, plus a 256 GB solid state drive. Everything defaults to the C: drive — which is the 256 GB SSD — so I had to do some configuring. Not going to let that huge, D: drive sit idly by. I put all the photographs and documents there — and the Adobe stuff. I’ll leave the SSD for booting and other applications. Like OpenOffice and Audible Manager.

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All things considered, this has gone well. Smoothly. Photoshop and Bridge installed without so much as a whimper of protest, as did all the Topaz and NIK filters. The DVD external worked fine. The back up drives passed the data to this computer without a problem as fast as their little virtual brains could do it.

Nonetheless, it took a long time and I’m not done yet.

It reminded me of watching (I think it was ) NCIS the other night. Some fiend was copying a gazillion terabytes of data to destroy American via the Internet. Not only was this evil genius able to hack the U.S. government’s most secret servers (which I don’t find hard to believe), but they could transfer this massive amount of data in a mere few minutes. Wow. That I can’t believe.

With my brand new 3.0 USB Western Digital external drive hooked up to my not-all-that slow older Alienware computer (it’s got a core Intel i7 board in it), I’ve been backing up the documents library. It contains 177 GB of data and about 55,000 files. The file count includes a lot of hidden, system files, illustrations inside books and so on. Many of them are tiny. Nonetheless, this transfer from a fast computer to the latest greatest external hard drive has already taken more than an hour and looks very likely to take one more.

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How do they do it so FAST on television? They can transfer the contents of an entire super computer to a flash drive in less than a minute. And where did they get that flash drive? None of mine work that well. I’ve never seen one even close to that large or fast … and NEVER an error message. Nary a glitch. Amazing!

I’m SO envious! While I’m envying fictional TV crime series technology, can I (please, pretty please) have that battery that will run my laptop for a week without having to plug it in? Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for the backup on the other computer to finish. Maybe tomorrow?

YOU’RE GONNA NEED A BIGGER BOAT

An argument is a modifier in computer language. Anyone who writes applications knows this, but most “civilians” don’t.

If you are a computer, you are always arguing. Computer language, unlike regular language, is remorseless. Unforgiving. You do it the right way or it won’t work. Or worse, it will work, but not the way you meant it to work. You misplace, or leave out a comma, or put a space between characters that should not have one … or put an underscore where there should be a hyphen — and who knows what calamitous results may follow?


0x00000116-blue-screenA blue screen error message that begins with STOP: 0x000000116 is due to video card or video driver related issues. 


For those of you familiar with Windows, you would in any case recognize this as a video card issue. Hardware or software. Usually, it’s a driver. Sometimes, it’s more than one thing crunching together. The problems began with installation of a new driver. My system said “No way!” and expressed itself by a black screen crash. I backed out of it and restored the system to before I installed the driver. Lo and behold, all was well. Or so I thought.

I waited until a newer driver was issued. NVIDIA issues new drivers so frequently you never have long to wait. All was well until Topaz sent a new version of its Texture filter. This blew up Photoshop. I backed out of the update, but simultaneously, NVIDIA sent a new version of “GEForce Experience.” An entirely new app.

When I tried to install it, it blew itself out of the system. In all my years of computering in the high-tech world, I’ve never seen that happen. It didn’t even leave a shortcut behind. Nothing. A hole in virtual reality. I could not restore it. For some reason, it would not restore from System Restore, or the external hard drive backup .


I do system backups to an external device. I’ve been doing some version of this for years, first on tape, then on CD or DVD, and now on external hard drives. Never, in all these years, have I ever been able to restore the system or an application using a backup. They don’t work. Never. It’s infuriating.

Thing is, I knew that this would likely be the case. Instead of counting on system backups, I back up data. If my system or a part of it blows, I know I’ll have to fix it some other way. Think about that. Just … ponder it. Save documents. Save pictures. Save music, books, and all that “stuff.” But the system? You’re going to need, as Quinn said in “Jaws,” a bigger boat.


Without that application, I couldn’t update the NVIDIA video card at all, so I went hunting and found a downloadable version on their website. I installed it and it also cleaned up the mess the previous download had caused. I then realized there was a new driver waiting, too. Oh joy. Just what I needed.

I created a restore point (just in case everything went south) and installed the new driver. It worked. But I was still getting way too many error messages involving the video card. Topaz wanted me to change my video settings, which I did. Dubiously, but I’m a good sport. It was working okay until this morning, it blue-screened me in the middle of answering a comment. Not exactly a major graphics project.

I rebooted. I set the graphics card back to its original factory default settings. This computer doesn’t want “better settings.”

My computer has too many arguments going on. I’m losing it because all I want to do is get on with stuff.

Herein lies the problem with running an older operating system on a computer with components that need frequent updating. The updates are not (really) designed for this operating system (FYI, Win7 Pro). My computer was a wee bit wonky a couple of weeks ago. It is a lot worse today.

I am losing all the arguments.

ARGUMENT | THE DAILY POST

HUNTING THE PERFECT COMPUTER AND COMING ATTRACTIONS

It was our anniversary yesterday. I didn’t spend the day reading blogs and writing. Instead, I goofed off.

We went out to dinner. After we came home, I didn’t start putting together a post for today. I did put together something special for Saturday. Garry wrote it. I did most of the photography (and all of the processing … but I always do all the processing). It’s fiction and funny. It sure made us laugh. And we had a lot of fun putting it together. It took much more work than most of our posts and far more planning that either of us is usually willing to do. So it will be up solo (!!) on Saturday. Hope you like it.

It’s fiction. Those of you who know old movies will recognize bits of  Sunset Boulevard peeking through.

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I spent the rest of the day not buying a new computer. I know I’ll have to buy something eventually, but I not sure what I need or want.

I’m not thrilled with Windows 10. I’m less than happy with the road Microsoft has been taking for several years. I’m least happy with their requiring you to take all update downloads automatically. I have not had good experiences with automatic updates and I’m reluctant to  surrender control of my computer.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure Apple invented the word “proprietary” and having owned lots of Apple computers and other devices over the course of my life in technology, I’m not sure they would be a better choice. Just … different.

Most Apple computers I’ve looked at seem under-powered and over-priced. The tech support people are snobs. Sorry, but they are. Every time I have had to deal with them, I wanted to whack them.

After a lot of browsing, I’ve found a couple of computers I like. One is an Asus, the other is by MSI. Neither is a company with which I’ve previously dealt. The machines are priced right and have impressive specs. Both also have well-documented issues: Hinges and build quality on the Asus, and getting too hot to handle and weird software glitches on the MSI.

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I have always found Dell/Alienware to be solid, long-lasting machines that work perfectly right out of the box. But — they are expensive. Almost all of them cost at least 25% more than equivalent machines made by other companies, yet maybe they are worth it. Every Dell I’ve owned has continued to run when other computers are buried in a landfill. Most are still running and essentially problem free many years later. I’ve moved up and on, but my former computers are running fine for people who aren’t Photoshop users. And don’t have a strong preference for listening to audiobooks while processing photographs, which is what finally forced me to get this machine. Discrete graphics makes a huge difference.

I’m putting computers on wish lists, hoping something will pop, be the perfect combination of specs, build quality, and price.

Until I find whatever, I’m looking, not buying. I’m open to suggestions and would appreciate them. Although I’m not a gamer, I’m addicted to having a computer that will do everything — at the same time. Fast. And never, ever crash.

THE SCARIEST THING

I was terrified.

Was it a big hairy spider? A home invader? A tornado? A threatened lawsuit? A burst pipe? A volcanic eruption (in New England, that would really be something else!) … ?

No. My computer refused to boot. It got to the “welcome” screen then just sat there. Going around and around and around. It has never done that. It was fine when we left to go to the grocery store. No blue screens of death or anything at all. It was computering along uncomplaining. Fine, thank you.

But. It. Would. Not. Boot.

I put it in “safe mode with networking” and restored it to the last save point … two days ago. And now, it’s fine again. No idea what happened except for a tiny, brief message that said “new drivers installed” then vanished — this while it was in “safe mode.” What drivers? I didn’t install any new equipment and the only driver I regularly upgrade is for my graphics card.

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So I have no idea what happened, but my heart is pounding and I’ve got a headache. I think my blood pressure just went into the stratosphere.

Although the computer is essential to my life, in fact everything on it would be easy enough to restore. Photographs and documents are safely stored on two external hard drives. My virtual life is on various clouds somewhere out in the Ether World — WordPress, Google, the bank, Amazon and probably a few others I can’t think of offhand. Other than Photoshop which I have on DVD, all my software is easy enough to replace by downloading.  Yet having my computer not boot filled me with dread and a horrible feeling of powerlessness. I think I’m less afraid of spiders … and that’s saying something because I’m really phobic about arachnids.

I will never know what happened. A virus? A bad download? Nothing is supposed to download to this system without my permission. It’s one of the reasons I don’t like Windows 10. You can’t turn off automatic downloads. I hate when things happen and I have no control over them.

If I wasn’t sure how important my computer is in my world, this absolutely showed me the bare, ugly truth. I need my computer like I need air. How did it come to this?

And wasn’t it a long way down.

WRESTLING WITH THE COMPUTER

I spent a day and a night in mortal combat with my computer. It wasn’t my computer’s fault. It was some update that caused something else to malfunction. Like a house of cards, it just went down and stayed down. Wouldn’t boot, wouldn’t tell me what the problem was. Finally, I managed to grab the last few digits of the blue-screen message and determined the area of the problem was graphics, coaxed the computer into backing up to a time before the “update,” and everything began to settle down.

As I near the end of the “free installation” period for Windows 10, Microsoft has become ever more strident in its determination to install it, including trying to install it without my permission.

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Which doesn’t work. It just errors out and makes a mess. This computer with its fancy shmantzy graphics card doesn’t run properly with Windows 10. It slows to a crawl, loses it’s file structure. I’ve attempted to install it four times and gotten fatal errors. It either crashed and would not recover, or it recovered, but was inoperable after a reboot. Enough being enough, I decided I’m fine with Windows 7.

I’ll be glad when the “free installation” period is over and I can stop worrying about sneak attacks on my operating system.

Technically, nothing can install without my permission. My settings decree I have to start an update before anything installs. But Microsoft seems to have found a way around my settings. To keep my computer working the way I want it, I turn it OFF unless I am sitting in front of it. This is inconvenient, but not as inconvenient as having Windows 10 trying to install itself while I am in the shower.

I’m hoping I’ve got it back on track now. These wrestling matches with the operating system are no fun and I absolutely do not want to have to replace this computer. Not only do I not have the money, but I’m happy with this computer. I don’t want the hassles that go with setting up a new one — especially using a different operating system.

I think I’m back. So far, so good.